COLUMN: Central Michigan University getting rid of out-of-state tuition step in the right direction for all students


Sara Kellner Mug

At their Feb. 15 meeting, the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees voted to standardize tuition rates, essentially getting rid of out-of-state tuition. 

Their reasoning was because 85 percent of out-of-state students receive the President’s Award, which allows them to pay the in-state rate.

I am part of that 85 percent. 

The President’s Award is the main reason I am at CMU. Without it, I would be $100,000 in debt just paying tuition for four years. This doesn’t include housing or living expenses.

CMU wasn't even on my radar until I found out about the President's Award and other academic scholarships available.  After I toured CMU, I was sold.  It has a great atmosphere, plenty of organizations to get involved in, and, most importantly, it was affordable.

Whenever someone finds out I’m from Minnesota, the first thing they ask is why I’m here. My answer is always the same: “I get to pay the in-state rate, so it was the cheapest college I applied to.” 

When looking for colleges, I had three criteria: the college had to be larger than 15,000 students, it had to have a good mass communication program and it had to have a marching band. Sadly, very few schools in my home state fit this that profile. I knew I needed to look at other states.

However, finding colleges out of state poses another problem. As the number of options increased, so did the price. 

According to the College Board, the average out-of-state tuition rate for public four-year colleges during the 2017-18 academic year was $25,620. The average in-state rate was just $9,970.

The reason for having two different rates has to do with the fact that tax dollars fund public education. However, a lot of states have been cutting funding, so colleges are relying more on tuition dollars to operate.

With these cuts in funding come tuition hikes. For many colleges, keeping in-state tuition low means increasing out-of-state tuition to make up for the difference.

For example, University of Wisconsin – Madison suffered severe budget cuts a few years ago with a decrease in state funding for the UW system. 

According to UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, the cuts put the university into a $96 million deficit for the 2015-16 school year. 

In order to make up for the deficit, the UW System Board of Regents voted to increase tuition for non-residents. Non-resident tuition for the 2014-15 school year was $25,523 and by 2018-19, non-resident tuition will reach $35,523, a $10,000 increase in four years.

Because of tuition increases like this one, it is getting much more difficult for out-of-state students to pay for college. Instead of worrying about how to pay off a six-figure loan, shouldn’t high school seniors be worried about getting into a college that has everything they want, even if it is out-of-state?

Students who grow up in Michigan are lucky, because they have dozens of affordable colleges to choose from. At least one will match their criteria. Choosing a college in another state is a conscious, calculated decision — not a necessity.

According to the CMU Office of Institutional Research, 10.5 percent of on-campus students in September 2016 were non-Michigan residents. This is more than double the percentage from 10 years ago. By eliminating out-of-state tuition, I am sure this percentage will grow even more.

I, personally, am very happy CMU is getting rid of out-of-state tuition. CMU will be much more competitive among other colleges inside and outside of Michigan. I hope this decision will encourage other universities to follow suit, giving students more affordable options for college in other states.

Students on campus are calling for more diversity at CMU. Instead of just including diversity of race, religion and ethnicity, why not call for more diversity of home states? 

Wouldn’t it be cool to meet people from all over the country instead of just Michigan? 

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